The soccer news starts with the 2018 MLS Cup final on Saturday (8pm ET – Fox) with Atlanta United trying to put the exclamation point on their season at home against Portland. The big talking points haven’t changed. Tata Martino’s last game draws at least a temporary line between eras for a team about to complete its second season. That’s the situation for United, a dynasty in the making that will now have to remake itself win or lose.
United takes the bulk of the attention because of home field advantage. Mercedes-Benz Stadium has treated them well as the rest of the elite Eastern Conference clubs. They lost twice at home during the regular season, the same as the Red Bulls, DC United, and the Columbus Crew. It’s hard to look back to June 24 for a final preview in MLS, but that’s when Atlanta and Portland drew 1-1 at Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Atlanta is a different team now, one capable of taking advantage of other teams’ adjustments. That was the undoing of the New York Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the first-leg of the Eastern Conference finals. Martino’s squad is likely to win a battle of tactical cleverness by playing a direct and obvious game. Get the ball to their best attacking players and let them work.
Portland coach Gio Savarese should recognize that approach. It’s a version of what worked for the Timbers at Sporting KC in the second-leg of the Western Conference finals. As long as Savarese received the message sent by the Red Bulls from their visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Portland and Atlanta should have plenty of time to see who gives up what on Saturday.
That might not make for the most exciting soccer in the early going, but that’s normal for MLS Cup. Free-flowing attacking soccer from the opening whistle is a risk for both teams. A conservative approach limits exposure and creates its own opportunities. Eventually, one team won’t be able to resist the urge and that’s when the game begins.
MLSsoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle has a tactical look at MLS Cup. Forbes’ Bobby McMahon focuses on the South American influence for both teams. The Oregonian’s Jamie Goldberg with the focus on Darlington Nagbe now with Atlanta playing against his old team where he won an MLS Cup. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Steve Hummer talks to Atlanta United investor/operator Arthur Blank.
Also in the soccer news, Joe Corona was on the bench for Club America’s 1-1 draw at UNAM Pumas to open their Liga MX Apertura semifinal series. Diego Lainez put America up in the 21st with Martin Rodriguez equalizing in the 51st. The series concludes on Sunday night at Estadio Azteca.
Columbus Business First’s Emily Bench reports on the potential downtown Columbus stadium deal for the Crew. Goal’s Ives Galarcep on the deal that sent Tyler Adams from the New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig. The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio looks at differences in MLS investor/operators and what that could mean for the league’s future.
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